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Mar 12, 2011 05:24 PM

Southern Food on North Carolina Coast?

Hi I'm from California and will be travelling soon to the Wilmingon/North Carolina Coast. Am I too far north for Southern food? I went to Charleston and Savannah last year and the Southern food was wonderful. Any recommendations greatly appreciated. That's why I'm going back - the food, but wanted to look at new scenery.

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  1. How far inland will you be able to venture? Generally speaking, NC (especially the coastal areas) do not have the proliferation of "country cooking" that SC does (I assume that's what you mean by "Southern food" - the meat-and-tons-of-veggies type place). The regional culinary tradition in NC is really BBQ as opposed to country cooking. That being said, there are a few places that do outstanding country cooking in that part of the state. Bum's in Ayden, NC and, according to many others here, Blackbeard's in Conetoe, NC are two places where you can get an exceptional spread of southern sides like collards, green beans, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, rutabagas, casseroles, etc. Bum's serves a fried chicken that is worth the trip in itself. Blackbeard's is reportedly one of the best examples of eastern NC-style bbq, but they also do a wonderful fried herring.

    You'll also find under-the-radar random places in small towns scattered just inland from the coast. While I haven't been to this place myself, I've heard good things about Mike's Farm and Country Store in Beulaville, NC. It's family-style, all you can eat, with a spread of fried chicken, pork and gravy, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn and dessert.

    Closer to Wilmington itself, I would recommend The Basics at the Cotton Exchange:

    There's also a soul food place in Wilmington called "Two Fat Ladies Over A Simmering Pot" that has glowing reviews.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mikeh

      Thanks very much. Yes, when I say Southern I meant shrimp and grits and the vegetable sides and a little fried chicken. I'm semi-veggie so I don't usually eat the meat. Hmm.. I don't like BBQ so much.

      I may have to venture inland. I'll check out where your suggestions are on the map.

      1. re: marie567

        Shrimp and grits is a Low Country dish. As you move inland, you will really only see it in higher end places serving Southern yuppie food, and usually not done as well as it would be in Charleston. You won't see it at places like Blackbeard's or Bum's, although I expect it will be common in Wilmington.

        1. re: Naco

          thanks. I'll read the boards for what to look for for North Carolina cuisine.

    2. You won't be too far north, but the style of cooking, while still Southern, is different from Low Country cuisine. The South isn't monolithic. You will probably find some Low Country cuisine in Wilmington. Details on where else you will be going would be helpful. A lot of the NC coast is very, very rural and restaurants can be hard to come by.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Naco

        Thanks, I'm just planning my trip now. I was going to stay a few days in Beaufort, exploring the area around there and then a few days in Wilmington. I'll probably stay a few days in Raleigh area while arriving or leaving.

        1. re: marie567

          In that case, you should do just fine. Beaufort and Wilmington both have a lot of higher-end dining of the sort that you'd find in Charleston. Blue Moon Bistro in Beaufort has gotten a lot of good comments on here. One place in that area that I found interesting was in Morehead- Mrs. Culpepper's Crab Cafe. They do locally sourced seafood, and Thai food- one of the owners is Thai. It's a small place, low on atmosphere, very much a local's joint, but good. The hours are somewhat limited in the off-peak season though, IIRC. I would call first.

          1. re: marie567

            Dixie Grill in downtown Wilmington has great brunch, Southern style. Deluxe right next store serves the Southern yuppie food Naco speaks of and is worth a visit. Blue Moon in Beaufort and Chef 105 in Morehead are both good restaurants, although not exactly what I think you're looking for. Where did you eat in Charleston that got you excited enough about Southern food to plan another trip.

            1. re: veganhater

              Well, again, I'm from California and not that much of a foodie. In Charleston area I ate at the tourist Jestines which I enjoyed a lot. I also ate at Page's Okra Grill in Mt. Pleasant and the Glass Onion Restaurant. All really good.

              In Tybee Island, Sundae Cafe was my favorite of the whole trip.
              And in Savannah as a tourist I loved Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House.
              I also ate at Vic's on the River which was really good.

              I usually eat one nice meal out a day - so that was pretty much it.

              Vic's on the River
              26 East Bay Street, Savannah, GA 31401

              Glass Onion
              1219 Savannah Hwy, Charleston, SC 29407

              1. re: marie567

                If you want something in the shrimp & grits/Lowcountry style and isn't a yuppified place, I recommend you try to hit up Southern Exposure in Faison, NC, which is on your route about halfway between Raleigh and whatever beach destination you'll be heading to. It's smack dab in the middle of this farm town, and they source from local farms, carry local seafood and veggies, and cook in the lowcountry tradition. The prices are reasonable and the dress is casual - it's where area folks like to gather to have a really good meal in an unfussy atmosphere.


                I would say that Blue Moon in Beaufort and Deluxe in Wilmington are good analogs to Sundae Cafe on Tybee Island. I'll also throw in Catch in Wilmington, NC - former chef of Deluxe who basically takes that concept and makes it more seafood-heavy (all locally sourced) and adds a light asian touch.


                Some of the country cooking/veggie places already mentioned in this thread are the best fit for your Jestines/Page's Okra Grill experiences. Unfortunately nowhere in NC will give you the type of atmosphere and spread that you found at Mrs. Wilkes in Savannah. I tended to make that a destination restaurant every few months while living in NC.

                Finally, I won't try to push NC bbq on you *too much* since you're semi-veggie, but believe me, coming from someone who now lives in the SF Bay Area, there is literally no one who does bbq in the NC style out here. You typically find Texas or Kansas-styles done poorly where the meat is just a vehicle for the heavy red sauce, as opposed to the vinegar-based chopped pork of NC. I have tried every bbq restaurant of any repute in the SF Bay Area, and the result was enduring a lot of really terrible meals. Check out a place or two on the map at the link below if you want to be adventuresome, but no pressure. Oh, one other thing, don't order ribs. NC is all about chopped pork.


                Southern Exposure
                202 W Main St, Faison, NC 28341

                1. re: mikeh

                  Thank you so much, I will try your suggestions. And, I eat chicken - I'll find a chicken barbeque. That's probably the best I can do on barbeque.